Photo: Earl Gardner
Philadelphia Union homegrown center back Auston Trusty blazed two new trails in 2016.
Each merits recognition.
- He became the first YSC Academy player to earn full-time practice with the USL professionals of Bethlehem Steel, making the first eleven in 19 games and playing every minute of those starts.
- He completed the last four months of his YSC diploma remotely, from a quiet corner of the training annex in Chester without the benefit of regularly attending class.
- He had class videotapes on his MacBook Pro, submitted his homework electronically, and Skyped with his teachers for explanation and remediation.
- He did a lot of self-teaching, which may give him a leg up at the college level whenever and however he chooses to go; he is already investigating those choices.
2016 season summarized
Trusty nailed down his starting position with Steel early in the spring and kept it throughout the summer and fall. Although he missed games to play in the United States youth national setup and U-18 academy national tournament, the young defender was clearly up to the physicality of a professional league. Slotting into a revolving door of a back line in front of a frequently changing keeper is never easy, but the defender acquitted himself well, and was rewarded with a homegrown contract with Philadelphia Union. Trusty has breakout potential, and his significant minutes with Steel at such a young age will undoubtedly assist his growth into a modern defender and who can distribute the ball around the pitch with ease.
Trust has an oh-my-god! first step. He dominates the air, displays good pace, and is a strong ball-winner. On top of all that, his basic defensive positioning is sound and he is an elite mover who seems to “flow” over the ground.
Perhaps most importantly, Trusty has responded well to the myriad physical and mental challenges he has faced over the past year.
Next on the to-do list? Expanding the variety and precision of his sans-thought, attack-starting passes.
Learning to be the “lead” center back remains an opportunity for further growth. Though when Steel manager Brendan Burke named Trusty as his lone central defender in a 3-man backfield because, even at a young age, he more experienced than Nick Bibbs, the experiment succeeded. There can be little doubt, however, that Oguchi Onyewu’s voice and example during practice will accelerate the rising star’s development as a leader.
In a season when his star rose while Bethlehem Steel fought through youth- and roster-driven inconsistency, Trusty’s high point had to be signing a home-grown-player deal with the Philadelphia Union two days before his eighteenth birthday.
The low point was either falling out of the playoffs in spite of out-playing Pittsburgh last Sept. 18th, or giving up the dream of playing for UNC-Chapel Hill.
Despite his physical and mental growth, eighteen year old Auston Trusty is not yet ready to threaten Richie Marquez’s job. This preseason, Trusty has been paired consistently with new Steel center back Hugh Roberts in drills, suggesting he is expected start next to Roberts this season.
He has practiced daily with the Union since August 2016 and continued to play his game minutes with Bethlehem. In an open Union practice the next-to-the-last day of the 2016 regular season, he was neither a dominating standout nor a lagging eyesore; he belonged.
Three times Trusty has dressed in the Union’s game-day eighteen as the emergency center back, suggesting both the Steel and Union coaching staffs believe he can hold his own in MLS if called upon.
Perhaps just as important to his development, Trusty was invited to USMNT U-20 preparatory camp in Costa Rica last Dec. 13-20, but did not make the starting line-up for either of the friendlies against the hosts. However, he was invited back at the end of January as the same team prepares for the U-20 world cup qualifiers.
Philadelphia Union want to build a bright future by developing young players through Bethlehem Steel. Along with Derrick Jones, Auston Trusty is the face of that project. And he will likely be a familiar face to Steel and Union fans for years to come.